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Monday, December 31, 2007

Day 11: London - Windsor - London (New Year's Eve)

Windsor Castle
The castle is located outside London in a small town of Windsor which is about an hour ride by train. It is also another official residence of the Queen besides the Buckingham Palace and Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh.

We had a wonderful tour inside the palace. The interior of the palace particularly the dining hall was so lavishly decorated. I felt that it was grander than the Chateau de Versailles in France. After this tour, I could imagine how rich the country is. :)

View from the castle

Queue for the State Apartments tour

A chapel

I asked whether I could take photo with him, and he just nodded. :)

After the tour, we bought our lunch outside the castle and headed back to London. No time to lose.

Hole in the wall

St Paul Cathedral
This cathedral looked quite new, I like the interior but couldn't take photos. Its architecture reminded me of the Pantheon in Paris, maybe it was the dome. Visitors could go climb up the dome which is about 530 steps!! We got no time to do this kind of thing, need to save some energy too. :) Our record is 400+ steps climbed up the Notre Dame in Paris.

Tower of London
The number one attraction in Tower of London is the Crown Jewels. The collection was exquisite, I never see diamonds or other gemstones that were so big!! It made me wonder whether they were real or just replicas because the place was not heavily guarded. The lights were also dimly lit and I didn't see a lot of security cameras. I don't think they would allow so many people at one time if they were real.

The Beefeater

Life in the past.

Weapons on display

Tower Bridge

View from Tower Bridge

The engine to lift up the bridge.

Iconic buildings

The Gherkin

HMS Belfast
A glimpse of life on a naval ship.

A chapel

Butcher at work

The kitchen

The dorm

Dentist at work

Operation theatre

Hospital ward


Coffee making

River Cruise
We had a river cruise from the Tower Pier to Waterloo. The journey was just too short. Actually we planned to take the cruise from Greenwich but there wasn't enough time.

New Year's Eve Fireworks
After the cruise, we went for dinner and also bought some snacks for tonight New Year's Eve countdown. When we reached the fireworks viewing site which was at the opposite of London Eye, we saw the first row already formed. The time was just 7 pm. After searching here and there for a good place to camp, we settled for a small space directly in front of the Eye. The TV crews were here too, so it must be a strategic place to view the fireworks. Logistically we were fully prepared, old newspapers to sit on, water, soft drinks, sandwiches, snacks, even umbrella!!

We were surrounded by a group of rowdy teenagers and one shameless old man. The old man brought with him 2 big bottles of liquor and shared them with the teenagers. To make things worst, this old man farted at least once every hour like no one was there. Crap!! The rest of people next to us were more civilised, some of them came from HK, Sri Lanka, Australia and other parts of the world.

The time slowly crept up, at 10 pm the site was already full of people, don't ever think of going to toilet!! There was some drizzling at around 11.30pm, I was praying hard that it didn't get heavier.

Finally the countdown started, I was so excited that all those people were forgiven. :D It was the most wonderful fireworks experience I ever had. 700,000 people, 2 million pounds worth of fireworks, London Eye, the chimes from Big Ben, I will remember this the rest of my life.

Before the countdown

Post Fireworks
The streets were full of broken glasses, rubbish piled everywhere and people were rushing to get into the tube station. The police was fully prepared, every corner we saw a few policemen controlling the crowd, and some were riding horses. Since the nearest tube station was closed and the queue to get in was so long, we walked further to Piccadilly Circus station and took the ride from there. We reached our hotel at 4 am.

Once is enough, even if I ever stay in London again, I will just watch it from TV. :D

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